The Medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF), an international organisation otherwise known as Doctors Without Borders, has stressed that, awareness and access to healthcare is key to addressing noma infection in the country.
Noma is a gangrenous and disfiguring infection that eats away the facial tissue leading to pain, discomfort and discrimination.
MSF, in a statement, expressed worry that noma, despite being preventable and treatable, kills a large number of the people it infects because of little awareness and lack of access to healthcare.
According to the organisation, since 2014, it has been running a programme dedicated to the treatment of noma in Sokoto Children’s Hospital, in collaboration with the ministry of health. The programme, MSF said, focuses on community outreach, active case finding in the region, health promotion, psychosocial and nutritional support for the patient and their families, health care and physiotherapy.
“Patients come from all over Nigeria for treatment, with the big majority from Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamfara states. Four times every year, MSF sends high-profile plastic and maxillofacial surgeons, nurses and anesthesiologists to work together with Nigerian specialists on performing reconstructive surgeries on noma patients.
“This neglected disease mostly affects vulnerable children in the poorest and most remote communities. The development of noma is associated with malnutrition, often in combination with other infections such as measles and malaria, poor sanitation, poor oral health and limited access to health care.
“Since August 2015, the programme has treated over 500 noma patients free of cost,” MSF said.
The organisation however, said that the various case management programmes available in Nigeria are not adequate to address noma countrywide.
Based on this recognition, the Federal Ministry of Health held the National Noma Day on November 20, 2017, which brought various stakeholders together to raise awareness about the disease. This was followed by two days of discussion and deliberations on how to address noma in the country, with the goal of developing a three-year draft national action plan on noma control.
The forthcoming November 2018 National Noma Day, MSF said, will once again bring together, various stakeholders for two days, to underscore the need for taking the lead on noma, at the national level.